By Hans Ebert
Last week, my favourite ‘live’ band in Hong Kong ran through an extremely funk-driven version of the Sam and Dave hit “Hold On I’m Coming”.
The saying that “It’s all about the song” really rang true. The song pushed everyone in band, especially the two singers. Play great songs, and their power goes through you. What was surprising was to discover that one of the singers had never heard of Sam and Dave or any of their other recordings. I sent him a video of the duo performing “Soul Man”, and quite rightly, he was blown away.
As written here many times, if a professional musician, you owe it to yourself to constantly do homework and study the history of music.
It’s part of that learning curve that makes you realise what’s been written and recorded and why. Listen to the hits and wonder why some great records never became hits. Learn about the great musicians and their original music along with their different take when covering the music of others.
This homework helps in to getting to that point where one starts writing truly original songs without retreading where others have gone long before, and suddenly realising what’s written is not original at all. All this homework also inspires one to become a better musician as there’s a bar that’s been set. This homework keeps egos in check. Those that think they know it all are those sitting around with sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.
There’s a very long road to travel to reach greatness, and there can be shortcuts to achieving success. There’s a great divide between the two. And in today’s world of excess, these shortcuts become more and more important if one doesn’t want to become a one trick pony stuck in the same groove.
Listen and not copy, but listen and be inspired. That’s the power of music and also the point of embracing music- and this includes understanding the fans while also understanding the business side of being paid for one’s art.
The latter is one reason why music companies and publishing houses have run their course, and also why so many musicians who are making music way too often find their efforts falling on deaf ears. They haven’t paid their dues by doing their homework.